Photo Credit: Yossi Zeliger / Flash 90
Ben Gurion International Airport - nearly empty as the U.S. imposes a ban on flights to Israel, caving to Hamas missile attacks.

Israel’s main labor union, the Histadrut, declared a general strike on Wednesday impacting services across the country.

The Histadrut, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, and Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Shalom Simhon were unable to come to an agreement over the conditions and contract terms for outsourced workers on Wednesday, with the failed talks leading to several closures, tie-ups, and delays.

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The institutions which will be closed as a result of the strike include all government ministries, the National Insurance Institute, unemployment offices, Municipalities (meaning no parking tickets or garbage collection), religious councils, courts, the Chief Rabbinate, trains, ports, the Stock Exchange, and banks.  Ben Gurion International Airport will be on strike from 6AM to noon, and public hospitals are operating on reduced Sabbath schedules.

Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz chastised the Histadrut for calling a strike which is expected to cost the economy $400 million a week.

On Tuesday, the High Court of Justice rejected a petition by the Federation of Israeli Chambers of Commerce against the strike, sayingit did not see a reason to intervene at this time.

An agreement between the Histadrut and the Coordinating Bureau of Economic Organizations, which represents private employers, have reportedly come to an agreement on the same issues.  If signed, the agreement will obligate employers to hire full time outsourced workers who have been employed for at least one or two years, rather than maintaining them as outsourced workers through an employment agency.  Compensation of those workers would also be matched to that already given to workers at the hiring company.

Finance Minister Steinitz reportedly told Histadrut head Ofer Eini that a similar agreement could not be reached with the state, because hiring outsourced workers for ministries and agencies would end up costing too much.  Instead, he offered salary and benefit increases, and increased monitoring to ensure workers’ rights were upheld in government offices.

At a conference in Tel Aviv on Tuesday, Steinitz explained that obligating the state to hire all outsourced workers would ultimately force it to hire everyone who provided a long-term service to the state.  He also noted that Israel would be the only OECD country hiring outsourced employees and requiring the same of local councils and high-tech companies.

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Malkah Fleisher is a graduate of Cardozo Law School in New York City. She is an editor/staff writer at JewishPress.com and co-hosts a weekly Israeli FM radio show. Malkah lives with her husband and two children on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
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